Mealtime aboard Delfin III was a surprise hit. Going into an expedition cruise like this, we held low expectations for the culinary offerings, but at every meal the kitchen team and service staff delivered great food that showcased local and regional ingredients, traditional dishes, and catered to a range of palates and dietary needs. Dishes were flavorful and creative, introduced unexpected ways to use ingredients like hearts of palm and surprising condiments (like the pepper-infused lime juice on the table at every meal) and were beautifully plated.
All meals are served on Deck 2 in the eponymously named Dining Room. A lovely space with large windows on three walls and a semi-open kitchen, there's ample seating in the Dining Room. During breakfast and lunch, the room feels airy and open, thanks to the light pouring in through the windows, but at dinner, with night falling outside, the lighting creates a more intimate atmosphere. Seating is open and unassigned, which means you're free to mingle with other guests and share a meal with them.
Breakfast is the only buffet meal served onboard. A typical breakfast spread included scrambled eggs, bacon and “local bacon” (salt cured, thick-cut ham), a pair of local sausages, fried green plantains or yucca, fruit and juice, as well as an assortment of pastries and breads, cold cereal and granola with milk or yogurt, and a selection of cheeses and meats. You could also order eggs -- fried, poached, Benedict or in omelet form -- or pancakes from the kitchen. Coffee and tea are also available.
* May require additional fees
Lunch and dinner are three-course affairs with a set menu. There were no options for the courses at either meal, unless you had dietary needs. On our sailing, traveling companions included vegetarians, pescatarians and non-fish eaters and the kitchen had no issue providing delicious meals that were as flavorful and filling as the standard offerings. If you have dietary issues, please let the ship know as soon as you book so they have time to make accommodations. Due to the remote nature of the cruise, it's difficult to make on-the-fly menu changes and accommodations.
When you enter the dining room, a chalkboard displayed the days' menu -- an appetizer, main and dessert -- usually in Spanish and English. As each course was served, the maitre d' would explain the dish, the ingredients and the cultural significance. Lunch and dinner both began with a bread service, followed by appetizers. Appetizers included a spicy ceviche, causa (a buttery mashed potato terrine), heart of palm souffle, doncella (a highly prized local fish) carpaccio and fish consomme. The main course was a hearty, but never over-filling, dish; we were served grilled chicken with creamed purple potatoes, osso buco, paiche (another local fish) with grilled vegetables, and lomo saltado (a stir-fried beef dish). Between the main course and dessert, servers delivered a palate cleansing sorbet made from lime or various Amazonian fruits. Desserts included rice pudding with purple corn compote, cheesecake with local fruits, white cacao mousse, plantain flambe with camu camu (a tart local fruit), aguaje (the fruit of the largest palm tree in the region) mousse, and, if you're lucky enough to have a birthday onboard, cake.
Two other meals were served during our transfers to and from the ship and the Iquitos airport. These were bagged lunches that included a chicken wrap or sandwich, an apple or orange and a cookie. Juice and finger foods were provided upon our arrival at the Delfin III's dock in Nauta.
Between lunch and dinner, there were snacks available on Deck 3 at the bar in the Canopy Lounge. Snacks included crackers and cookies, as well as potato or plantain chips. Other than this, food service was limited to mealtimes and the chocolates left in the room when the stewards performed nightly turn-down service.
Mealtimes stay pretty consistent throughout the cruise, but can move up or back a little depending on the day's excursions. Breakfast was served between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and stayed open for 90 minutes. Lunch began anytime from noon to 12:30 p.m. Dinner began between 7 and 8 p.m. The daily schedule outside the Dining Room listed all mealtimes and your guides made note of the next meal before you returned to the ship for your excursion.
Room service is not typically available and is reserved for ill passengers who wish to stay in their room during mealtimes.